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As we wrote our list of 99 Essential Restaurants™ in Lower Manhattan, we spoke to many of the chefs, owners, and general managers who run the restaurants. We asked them to tell us about the history of their neighborhoods and eateries, recount good memories, and talk to us about what’s hardest about running a restaurant in New York.
Some of these interviews were too good not to share, like the one that follows with Rubirosa’s AJ Pappalardo (owner, with father Guiseppe Pappalardo), Al DiMeglo (chef), and Bari Musaccio (GM and wine director).
What year did you open?
We opened in 2010.
What’s your restaurant philosophy?
We wanted to be an approachable place to come for warm neighborhood ambiance with friendly, personable staff and home-style Italian-American fare.
What was your original vision for this restaurant, and how has that evolved?
Luckily for us, we’ve really been able to fulfill our dream and original vision, though a few small things have evolved. For example, we have been able to take guest requests such as gluten-free dining and adapt it to our concept; we now have a large gluten-free menu full of our classic dishes. That’s been a huge success.
What dishes can you never take off the menu?
Classic pizza! Its a 53-year-old family recipe. With dishes from the kitchen, our cavatelli with broccoli rabe and sausage, and the braciole appetizer. They both are favorites with both staff and our regulars!
Where should we look for bargains on the wine list?
The Sicilian wines from Arianna Occhipinti Tami collection are a tremendous value, approachable, and high quality. They are a perfect fit with our concept and philosophy.
What are some of your favorite memories at the restaurant?
Our first San Gennaro festival; we were busier than we could imagine in the restaurant and outside in our braciole stand. We had friends of the house and our staff working all together and it really just made it the best week ever!
How do you fit into the neighborhood?
We feel like we’ve really grown into our space in the neighborhood. We could not imagine being anywhere else; we are always hosting our neighbors and very close with our neighboring businesses on Mulberry Street.
What is your distinct place in the NYC dining scene?
We consider ourselves a great neighborhood restaurant.
What’s best about being part of the NYC restaurant industry?
We love the fast-paced environment; there is always something to do and friends in the dining room!
What’s the hardest part about having a restaurant in NYC?
The fast-paced environment. There is always something to do!